Iowa softball falls in first round of Big Ten Tournament

The Hawkeyes found some offense, but it wasn't enough to keep them from falling to the Badgers.

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Iowa softball falls in first round of Big Ten Tournament

Iowa utility player Sarah Lehman catches a ground ball during the game against Nebraska at the Bob Pearl Softball Field on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

Iowa utility player Sarah Lehman catches a ground ball during the game against Nebraska at the Bob Pearl Softball Field on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

Roman Slabach

Iowa utility player Sarah Lehman catches a ground ball during the game against Nebraska at the Bob Pearl Softball Field on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

Roman Slabach

Roman Slabach

Iowa utility player Sarah Lehman catches a ground ball during the game against Nebraska at the Bob Pearl Softball Field on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

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A late-season push by the Hawkeye softball team boosted it into this year’s Big Ten Tournament, but a third-inning rally brought about its exit in a 7-4 first-round loss to Wisconsin on May 9 in Bloomington, Indiana.

Iowa certainly didn’t go out standing up. It dove head-first into the game against a challenging Badger squad that had swept it earlier this season.

Jumping out of the gate, Iowa started the game putting its first three batters on base. That included an RBI single from Cameron Cecil to set the Hawkeyes up, 1-0.

Typically, Iowa scoring first has been synonymous with a victory; it was 17-2 in those scenarios during the regular season.

Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, Wisconsin struck right back in a rough start by Sarah Lehman.

Three walks, a mishandled squeeze situation, a wild pitch, and a 2-run double amounted to a 3-run inning for the Badgers.

Iowa tied the game in the top of the third on a 2-run single from Ashley Hamilton, but another 3-spot from Wisconsin in the bottom of the inning was all the Badgers needed to advance.

Lehman got the ball Thursday after an impressive late-season run in which she emerged as Iowa’s clear No. 2 pitcher behind Allison Doocy.

At times, Lehman was better than Doocy late in the season, but she didn’t have her control with her in the circle on May 9, evidenced by her 5 walks and 7 hits allowed in just 3.1 innings.

A disappointing start for Lehman will definitely sting for the near future, but considering she wasn’t playing organized softball last year, the future is bright for the sophomore.

“Sarah has done a tremendous job this year,” assistant coach Rick Dillinger said. “She came in a little rusty from playing volleyball the year before, but she has grown so much. She is hungry and works extremely hard. We are excited where she is, but we are really excited about what she might become as she gets older and more experienced.”

The Hawkeyes will also return Lehman’s reliever in Thursday’s game — Doocy, who was recently named to her second-consecutive All-Big Ten team. She will help provide a formidable one-two punch from the circle next season.

“With more than eight kids coming in next year, we’re looking to building with what we have,” Iowa head coach Renee Gillispie said. “We are always looking to get better players than we had the year before and build that up. It’s going to be great competition next year, and they know that. We do not want to be the last team in the Big Ten Tournament and the first one out. That will not happen again in the history of Iowa softball.”

A loss is a loss, and no matter the circumstance, they’re disappointing for the Hawkeyes. But one positive outlook Iowa can have is its offense.

In the three-game series against Wisconsin earlier in the season, Iowa managed just 3 runs in 21 innings. It had 4 in Thursday’s seven-inning game.

“We talk all the time about outhitting other teams, and we did that today,” Gillispie said “Wisconsin is a tough team, though, and they were taking advantage of the freebies we were giving them.”